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FOREWOR D B Y

ALAN H IR S C H

SAM METCALF
HOW APOSTOLIC MOVEMENTS
CAN CHANGE THE WORLD

THE
LOCAL

BEYOND
THE
LOCAL

CHURCH
HOW APOSTOLIC MOVEMENTS
CAN CHANGE THE WORLD

SAM METCALF

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InterVarsity Press
P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426
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2015 by Sam Metcalf
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission
from InterVarsity Press.
InterVarsity Press is the book-publishing division of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, a
movement of students and faculty active on campus at hundreds of universities, colleges and schools
of nursing in the United States of America, and a member movement of the International Fellowship
of Evangelical Students. For information about local and regional activities, visit intervarsity.org.
All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW
INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used
by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
While any stories in this book are true, some names and identifying information may have been
changed to protect the privacy of individuals.
The poem on pp. 149-50 is In Celebration of Missionaries from Psalms of My Life by Joseph Bayly.
Used by permission of the Bayly family.
Figure 5.2 on p. 111 and excerpts from Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim, The Permanent Revolution:
Apostolic Imagination and Practice for the 21st Century Church (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2012)
are reproduced with permission of John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Excerpts from C. Peter Wagner, The Book of Acts: A Commentary (Bloomington, MN: Chosen
Books, 2014) are used by permission of Chosen Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group.
Published in association with the literary agency of WordServe Literary Group, Ltd.,
www.wordserveliterary.com.
Cover design: David Fassett
Interior design: Beth McGill
Images: birds in flight: EyeEm/Getty Images

little white church: sumnersgraphicsinc/iStockphoto
ISBN 978-0-8308-4436-4 (print)
ISBN 978-0-8308-9889-3 (digital)
Printed in the United States of America
As a member of the Green Press Initiative, InterVarsity Press is committed to
protecting the environment and to the responsible use of natural resources. To learn
more, visit greenpressinitiative.org.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Metcalf, Sam, 1952 Beyond the local church : how apostolic movements can change the world / Sam Metcalf.
pages cm
Includes bibliographical references.
ISBN 978-0-8308-4436-4 (pbk. : alk. paper)
1. Christianity--Societies, etc. 2. Church. I. Title.
BR21.M48 2015
267--dc23
201502699
P

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Contents
Foreword by Alan Hirsch . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
Introduction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
1 The Power of a Balanced Anatomy . . . . . . . . . . . 25
The biblical genius and design for apostolic structures
and movements
2 Limping or Leaping Through Time . . . . . . . . . . 43
The encouragement of apostolic missionality in history
3 Mother Teresa Wasnt a Para-Catholic!. . . . . . . 61
Why parachurch is a dirty word
4 So What Is Apostolic? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82
The oft-neglected essential to authentic missionality
5 Holy Discontent and Sanctified Ambition . . . . . . 100
The apostolic imperative of Ephesians 4
6 Setting Visionaries Free . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 119
Pioneering as a second decision entrepreneur
7 Finding Second Decision People. . . . . . . . . . . . 135
How to engage and release apostolic leaders
8 Running Together! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 151
The exponential leverage of interdependence
9 Movements of God . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 166
The extraordinary results of apostolic gifting lived
out in apostolic structures
10 The Momentum of Movements . . . . . . . . . . . . . 189
To kill or to multiply, that is the question
Conclusion: Be a history shaper. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 203
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Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 207
Notes. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 211
About the Author. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 221

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Introduction
The renewal of the church will come from a new
type of monasticism, which has only in common with the
old an uncompromising allegiance to the Sermon
on the Mount. It is high time men and
women banded together to do this.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Send us people with initiative. Send only Pauls and Timothys . . .


who are full of zeal, holiness and power. All others are
hindrances. If you send us ten such men the
work will be done. Quantity is nothing;
quality is what matters.
C.T. Studd, pioneer missionary to China, India and Africa

remember playing a game as a child in which we would bend one


knee and grab our foot behind us and then try to racelimping,
stumbling and falling over as we struggled across the grass toward
a finish line.
Thats what happens when we have only one leg to stand on, or

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Beyond the Local Church

assume that somehow two left feet suffice for one of each. This balancing act is repeated throughout most of nature. Two eyes to give
perspective. Two arms and two hands to provide dexterity. Two
sides of our brain that operate separately, yet in tandem. All these
things come in pairs because there are many things in the physical
world that work best when they have balance and complementarity.
So it is when we mistakenly assume that the local church is all
there is or should be when it comes to Gods redemptive purposes.
Its like trying to run on two left feet. The results can be as sadly
hilarious as they were when I was running those races as a child,
limping along on only one foot.
There is a divine, structural symmetry that we ignore to our peril.
In the Protestant world, of which I am a part, the denial of the legitimacy of the other form of the churchthe necessary right foot
has been far too prevalent and even the norm during the five
hundred years since Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses to
the Wittenberg church door.
LOOKING FOR MORE?
I grew up in a home where local church involvement was a given,
and in my experience it was mostly healthy and nurturing. But from
an early age, I struggled with the uneasy feeling that for me there
had to be something else, something beyond that experience. When
I gained exposure in my high school and university days to ministries such as Young Life, Campus Crusade (Cru), the Navigators,
InterVarsity, World Vision and many more, a broader world of ministry opened up. I discovered experientially that the left foot was
not enough, at least for meand I found that discovery incredibly
liberating. I suspect I would have jettisoned my faith had it not
been for such involvement beyond the local church.
But while I knew and understood this intuitively, it was only
years later that I discovered why that was the case, as I was exposed
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15

to the biblical and historical evidence that supported an understanding of the church in both its right- and left-footed forms. I
learned that these missionary structures beyond the local church
were the places where many of the people with what the Bible refers
to as apostolic gifting or calling could be fulfilled. These structures
were the ideal platforms where the sent onesthe basic meaning
of the word apostolic in the Biblecould thrive and make their
ultimate contribution to Gods plans and purposes.
And I learned, contrary to what I had heard in my local church
setting, that these ministries outside and beyond the local church were
not aberrations. They didnt exist just because the local church was not
doing what it was supposed to do. Far from it. These apostolic missionary structures existed by the design and plan of God. They were
never afterthoughts.
YOURE NOT ALONE
What Ive found, after decades of ministry in dozens of countries
with hundreds of leaders, pastors and missionaries of every imaginable configuration, is that Im not alone. I consistently engage
those who have been similarly frustrated and are limping along on
one foot, falsely believing that they are relegated to this state for the
rest of their lives. Perhaps you are one of these. You wish there was
something different to suit your gifts and calling, but when you find
it, you feel guilty somehow, because its parachurch and not quite
legitimate. If so, this book is specifically for you.
Travis was just such a person. After university, he was part of a
church plant (which failed) and then worked his way through seminary as a bartender. In retrospect, he says, he had a more authentic
ministry behind the bar than in the church plant.
When we met, Travis was wondering what was next. While he
was appreciative of the local church that had nurtured him in earlier
years, he knew in the core of his being that the local church context
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somehow did not fit him. Today, in his early thirties, he leads teams
of likeminded missionarieshighly committed people who, while
doing life together in community, are pursuing a focused, missional
vision in neighborhoods and cities worldwide. Around them, new
expressions of local churches are emerging. But these teams that
Travis leads are not local churches, nor do they try to be.
Throughout the Protestant world, too many of us continue to
plow ahead with a self-inflicted handicap which does not fully validate or affirm those with an apostolic calling, like Travis, or the
missional structures that are necessary for such men and women
to flourish. Out of a noble sense of loyalty to the local church, we
blindly limp along as ecclesiological cripples.
Sidelining apostolic calling and the structures necessary for its
full expression is primarily a Protestant problemthe Roman
Catholics and Orthodox dont struggle much with this issue. They
have simply taken the biblical, historical and missiological reality
of two complementary expressions of the church and institutionalized it through their religious orders. Thus they have validated a
plethora of nonlocal structures that are ongoing sources of spiritual
vitality and renewal for the whole body of Christ. And they have
been extraordinarily effective. Despite the inevitable politics and
internal jostling for power and influence over the centuries, the
Catholics and the Orthodox have been quite successful in harnessing apostolic organizational dynamics and structures.
LETS REMONK IT!
In August 1988 an editorial appeared in Christianity Today entitled
Remonking the Church.1 It was a wonderful call for the reestablishment of a robust, fully-orbed expression of the church in the
Protestant world, which would lead to more order-like ministries.
It would also lead to more teams and communities like the ones
Travis leads. It would lead to an expansion of our understanding of
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17

the church to include right- as well as left-footed expressions.


When that editorial was published, I thought it was bold and even
risky for the writers. It showed a high degree of missiological insight
more than I would have anticipated at that particular time from the
flagship magazine of the North American evangelical establishment.
I presently share responsibility for over five hundred people
working in over eighty nations. Wherever these people are, they do
one or more of three things. First, they live among unreached, unchurched or dechurched people, creating movements of the gospel
where existing churches cannot or will not go. Second, they help
mobilize existing churches and church leaders for mission, so that
these local bodies can reach their own near neighbors and see them
become obedient followers of Jesus. And third, they live incarnationally among the poor and marginalized in order to see disciples
of Jesus multiplied and their communities transformed by the
power and presence of Christ.
From this position, I have come to the conclusion that the essence of that editorial in Christianity Today was more than bold.
It was prophetic. Whether its ministry among the remaining unreached people groups of the world or regaining the momentum
of the Christian movement in the postmodern West, an essential
key to effectiveness is the reemergence of the apostolic structures
of the church and of apostolically called people to populate them.
Such a reemergence will require a shift in thinking, particularly
among some religious leadersboth pastoral and denominationalabout the legitimacy and essentiality of the structures
needed for many with apostolic gifts to thrive. Both right and left
feet are necessary.
WHO THIS BOOK IS FOR
My focus is primarily on those of us who are called by God to live
and work in nonlocal church ministries, engaging those we long to
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become followers of Jesus. My purpose is to validate our calling: to


show that our calling and the structures in which we live and work
are just as anatomically essential to the mission of God as local
churches, and that without us, movements would rarely ever happen.
We live, day in and day out around the world, with the implications
of what church really means to people who may be radically far
away from God. For the people among whom we minister, our understanding of these truths has life-and-death consequences, and
the fate of multitudes is at stake.
This is not some esoteric argument for the halls of the academy.
It is my conviction that the future of the Christian movement depends on our ability to not just grasp these concepts, but to put
them into action and to reengage the cultures around us with a holistic, biblical gospel. It is to live out in a contemporary setting the
great truth articulated at Nicaea: We believe in one holy, catholic
and apostolic Church. As I hope to demonstrate in this volume,
such a biblical and missional perspective is difficult, if not impossible, when we cling to a limited concept of the body of Christ that
says the church in its local expression is all thats valid.
The message is simple: The creation and multiplication of structures where apostolic calling can be lived out to the fullest are
critical to the mission of God and the health and vitality of the body
of Christ, and are essential for movements of the good news of Jesus
to occur. And the people called by God to populate these apostolic,
missional structures must be validated, supported and affirmed.
THE LIMITS OF TWO LEFT FEET
Such apostolic calling and passion are rarely, if ever, fully embodied
in the church in its local form. And this is not an aberration. This
has always been the plan and purpose of God, demonstrated over
and over again throughout redemptive history. The church in its
local, cross-generational, parish, diocesan form has never been
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19

theologically, historically, sociologically or missiologically


designed by God to cross barriers for the sake of the expansion of
his kingdom. The local church does not start movements on its own.
Rather, it is supremely designed for near-neighbor missionality and
for being a supportive base for apostolic efforts to send and equip
those who do cross such barriers.
What I have written in these pages may be disturbing to some
pastors and denominational officials in the Protestant world who
continue to advocate a view of the church that has two left feet.
Unfortunately, thats what many of us have been taught and have
accepted uncritically, particularly in the West, from the days of the
Reformation onward.2 In this volume I will challenge some traditional dogmas about the nature and mission of the church, and I
may upend some institutional sacred cows. I may challenge widely
held assumptions to which missionarieswho should know better
often feel obligated to give lip service. I believe we must think critically about ecclesiological mantras and assumptions that, when
practically applied, have contributed to impotence and retreat for
the Christian movement, regardless of the context.
I am increasingly convinced that acting on these axioms is essential if the church is to regain its momentum in the West as the
culture continues its slide into secular postmodernity. I believe that
applying these truths is also essential if the church in the global
South and the majority world is to avoid the mistakes of their
brothers and sisters in the West in uncritically embracing a truncated and inadequate understanding of what the church isan inadequacy that contributes to the ongoing stagnation and decline
evident in Europe and North America.
This topic is not faddish. Rather, it is a timeless topic for anyone
genuinely concerned about the state of the Christian movement in
our world, and particularly in the West. It is an important topic for
anyone serious about obedience to Jesus words in Matthew 28 and
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the movement he started. That is because there has never been a


significant submovement within the greater Christian movement
that did not exemplify and utilize an apostolic structural dynamic at
its very core. The Christian movement, and all of its various submovements, has advanced most effectively when it has gone forward
with two different but complementary structural feet on the ground.
THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES
I want to be clear from the start. I am not anti-local church. Far
from it. Rather, I am concerned by the uncritical acceptance of the
understanding that the church in its local form is all there is when
it comes to authentic expressions of the Christian movement, or
the big C Church.
If we are brutally honest, we live in a context in North America
that is largely disillusioned with those expressions of the local
church that permeate our culture. The statistics show it.3 Spirituality is not on the wane, but institutionalized religion and stagnant,
irrelevant expressions of Christendom are in a free fall. People may
be positive toward Jesus, but they want little to do with the church
as they see it around them.
In North America, the fastest-growing segment of the population, categorized according to religious affiliation, are the nones,
meaning those who are done with formal religious affiliation. This
includes the dechurched, who account for the largest category of
unchurched people in the younger generation.4 In my experience,
one of the most effective ways to engage the nones with the reality
of Jesus and his kingdom purposes is the patient, loving presence
of apostolic people working through apostolic structures.
The prevailing voices in Western culture look at much of the
local church and pronounce, through the media, arts, politics and
education, that the emperor has no clothes. As Western culture
continues to slide toward secularism, not just the messages of many
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21

of our local churches but their very fabric and structure are increasingly sidelined and out of touch. This cannot be solely attributed to
an adversarial culture that is antagonistic toward what is perceived
as Christian. Rather, those of us who are followers of Jesus in the
Western world have brought much of this on ourselves. Despite our
numbers, our wealth and our institutions, our influence continues
its precipitous decline. As Alan Hirsch and Tim Catchim so astutely
observe: The U. S. church spends over $70 billion every decade on
plants and resources and we are experiencing a decline in adherence and membership at an unprecedented rate.5 They go on:
All of the statistical indicators show serious infertility in
Western Christianity, and so we too are caught in a despairing
spiral of trended numerical and spiritual decline in just about
every context in the Western world. . . . We have to acknowledge
that after almost twenty centuries of Christianity in Western
contexts, we have generally not seen the kind of transformation implied in the Gospel.6
I was in London browsing one of the ubiquitous British tabloids
and an advertisement for a new health club grabbed my attention.
The picture was of a magnificent gothic church sanctuary that had
been turned into the swimming pool of the new spa. It was a telling
image of the continuing demise of the Anglican Church in a city
where more people attend a mosque than the Church of England
on any given weekend. Or consider the church building, one block
off the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, that is now a nightclub and lounge.
To add insult to injury, the club is called Sin, and the logo that has
replaced the stained glass window is a fallen angel descending from
the heights of heaven.
The decline of the Christian movement in the West is well documented and unsurprising to honest observers.7 Unfortunately,
many of us are like the proverbial frog in the kettle. We remain in
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our religious bubbles, oblivious to the rapidity of change around us


until it is too late. But the point is that without a restoration of
apostolic function and the necessary apostolic structures, I believe
there is little hope that the Christian movement will ever regain the
initiative in the West. Until we understand, legitimize and embrace
the essentiality of such apostolic gifting and structures, and free
them from the limitations imposed by well-meaning local churches,
local church leaders and denominational authorities, we will never
be able to overcome the perceptions of irrelevance and marginalization that confront the good news of Jesus in the Western world.
THE NECESSITY OF STRUCTURE
While there are encouraging signs of renewal and reinvention, I
perennially find conversations about structure strangely absent.
Hence the emphasis and theme of this volume: Apostolic vision
without apostolic structure is only a dream. I believe this has been
true for every missional movement since Pentecost.
For example, structure was the distinguishing difference between the relative lack of long-term results in the ministry of
George Whitfield as compared to that of John Wesley. Whitfield
may have been considered the most influential voice for Christianity in the English-speaking world in the eighteenth century, but
Wesley understood that a movement with structure would have a
more lasting influence. It was through the methods of the Methodists that the power of their movement was harnessed, with results that lasted for many generations.
Examples like Whitfield and Wesley can be found in every epoch
and age, every culture and people group for the past two thousand
years, wherever the good news of Jesus has taken root. And in every
instance where the Spirit of God is poured out on Gods people and
there is an accompanying structural dynamic, where the people of
God are free to thrive in both local church expressions and aposCopyrighted Material. www.ivpress.com/permissions

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tolic church expressions, we see movements of the gospel emerge,


all pointing to the powerful handiwork of God in his loving, redemptive purposes.
THE AWESOME POTENTIAL OF APOSTOLIC MOVEMENTS
I would like to see understanding, affirmation and a fresh avalanche
of legitimacy for apostolic ministry and for the structures necessary
for its fulfillment. If this biblical, historical and missiological paradigm could be embraced more fully, it is remarkable to imagine
the spiritual forces, invigorated by the Spirit of God and the agents
of heaven, that could be unleashed in our time. The type of movements this book describes could become the norm rather than the
exception.
I long to see waves of individuals with apostolic gifting and apostolic passion released into the harvest fields of the world and the
fresh, authentic movements that will inevitably result. I want to see
apostolic people mobilized for effective ministry in local church
settings and flooding into ministry beyond the local church, both
far and near. Too many are sitting on the sidelines. The amount of
untapped talent, unfulfilled gifts and underused skills is overwhelming. The waste is appalling.
And finally, I want to see and participate in movements in which
millions of people, now far from God, move toward him and find
ultimate freedom in unfettered commitment to Jesus. Such movements have rarely occurredand will not be possible in the future
apart from the leadership of apostolic people and the multiplication
of apostolic structures through which they are free to minister. Two
left feet wont cut it. We need apostolic, missional structures to
accommodate the apostolically gifted. The outcomes of the movements they will catalyze are not just heavenly, but are profoundly
effectual in the here and now. The results will be deeply transformative for a world that is in great pain and ever-increasing need.
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Can the rule of Jesus and the presence of his kingdom break in
more broadly and deeply for us and for the generations to follow?
Absolutely! But one critical and essential component of such
kingdom reality is setting free those entrepreneurial pioneers of the
kingdom called apostles, and invigorating the structures in which
they thrive with energy and resources. The world is longing for
expressions of the body of Christ that run on both feet! For the sake
of his name and for the sake of his creation, may the King of the
kingdom make it so in our day.

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The Power of a Balanced Anatomy


The biblical genius and design for apostolic
structures and movements
The mission of God is limited, because the models by
which it can happen have been restricted.
George Lings

We believe in one holy, catholic


and apostolic Church.
Nicene Creed

e was the pastor of a local church which had been generously


supportive of several people serving around the world with
Church Resource Ministries (CRM), the organization that I lead.
But he was grappling with the question of where his responsibility
to those people ended and where ours, as the mission entity with
whom they served, began. It was a good struggle and one common
to many who sincerely want to affirm and support those within their
congregations whom God has set aside and called to be sent ones

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apostolic people, those who traverse social, cultural, linguistic or


geographical barriers for the sake of the good news of Jesus.
As we talked over lunch, I cautiously began to lay out the distinctives, as I see them, between local churches and ministries like
ours, and what I felt healthy interdependence between these two
forms of church would look like. Some of that was easy because
we both had a profound commitment to mission and to what God
wants to do among the nations. But unfortunately, he had few categories for ministry outside, or not under the control of, the local
congregation. Apostolic people and structures that operated
outside of his local church were not really a legitimate part of his
ministry paradigm.
The more we talked, the more the dissonance bubbled to the
surface. Finally he blurted out, I always suspected there were people
like you in the missions world, but youre the first one Ive ever heard
openly say such things. You really think that you and what you do is
as much the church as what we do? Where do you get that from in
the Bible? He went on to suggest that it might be a good idea for
me to get together with a respected theologian at a nearby seminary
with the hope that my theology could be better informed.
This particular encounter haunted me afterward. Here was a
faithful, conscientious pastor practically begging for some type of
biblical justification for what I considered a healthy, balanced ecclesiology. I think he genuinely wanted to validate those from his congregation who had chosen a missional vocation, but no onein
seminary or afterwardhad ever given him a cogent rationale for
such a structure.
THE TWO-STRUCTURE PARADIGM
During the latter half of the twentieth century, Ralph Winter was
one of the iconic giants of the mission world. After earning degrees
from Cal Tech, Columbia, Cornell and Princeton, he and his wife,
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27

Roberta, cut their teeth as missionaries in Guatemala, where they


pioneered TEE (Theological Education by Extension), a concept
which has been emulated around the world in the years since.
After a decade in Guatemala, Winter became one of the core of
eminent missiologists recruited by Donald McGavran at Fuller
Theological Seminary, where Winter would directly influence over
one thousand missionaries, particularly through his groundbreaking course The History of the Christian Movement. He went
on to found a number of organizations, including the U. S. Center
for World Mission, which spearheaded the concept of unreached
people groups and has had a far-reaching influence on global missionary priorities that continues to this day.
One of Winters most important contributions to missiology was
a seminal article first drafted in 1973, titled The Two Structures
of Gods Redemptive Mission.1 In this broad historical overview,
Winter outlinesas only he could dothe grand themes of Gods
redemptive activity, and pulls all the pieces together in a way that
makes sense of centuries of missionary history. It is the best historical treatment of a fully-orbed missional ecclesiology Ive ever
encountered. It explains how the design of God, from the time of
the New Testament forward, has been to work through the local
church and the church in its missionary form.
When I was at Fuller for graduate studies and came across Winters article, I was astonished. No one had ever explained any of this
to me. Id never heard it before. It was as if the lights all came on,
and I was granted a license of legitimacy for ministry that I had
never previously experienced.
Winter makes the case that God has chosen to work throughout
all of history through two primary redemptive structures. Winter
gave these two structures anthropological titles. He labeled the
church in its local, parish, diocesan form (what I have referred to
as the left foot) a modality, and he labeled the church in its taskCopyrighted Material. www.ivpress.com/permissions

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oriented, missionary, sent form a sodality (what I have called the


right foot). Both are the church. Both are necessary.
These terms are understood and used in Roman Catholic circles
and are occasionally used by Protestants too, such as Yale historian
Kenneth Scott Latourette in his landmark work The History of
Christianity.2 But for the most part, no one can seem to remember
which one is which, if they know of them at all. In this book were
using practical analogies, like left and right feet, to help distinguish
these complementary parts of church anatomy.
While there are many implications that can be drawn from Winters article, I believe three are particularly profound.
1. The church in its apostolic, missionary form is just as equally
church as the church in its local, parish form. God never designed or intended either to do the work of the other.
2. The evidence from history is abundant that whenever these two
structures work cooperatively and interdependently, the Christian
movement thrives and moves forward. When one structure dominates or attempts to control the other, the movement suffers.
3. Apostolic leaders thrive best in structures uniquely designed for
the fulfillment of their calling, and these leaders must have
access to such structures in order to reach their God-given potential. When pastoral or denominational leaders mistakenly
assume that such apostolic structures have no validity or are
subject to their control, everyone loses.
COMPARING MODALITIES AND SODALITIES
The following chart is a helpful way to compare and contrast these
two expressions of the church. While there are right-footed structures that are not apostolic (described in chapter five), my interest
here and throughout this book is in those structures that are apostolic in nature, where apostolic gifting flourishes.
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Table 1.1
Left Foot Structures (Modalities)

Right Foot Structures (Sodalities)

The church local


Diocesan, parish form
Structured primarily for nurture, care
Conserves new ground
First decision people
Ministry generalists
Multi-tasks
Inclusive
Pastors and teachers thrive
Resources for sodalities
Connectional
Occasionally multiplies
Five generation life cycle
Primarily near neighbor missionality (E-0)3
Builds, establishes and preserves

The church mobile


Missionary form
Task-oriented, mobile, flexible, lean
Takes new ground, crosses barriers
Second decision people
Ministry specialists
Narrow focus
Exclusive
Apostolic leaders thrive
Creates modalities and new sodalities
Can be trans-denominational
Expansionistic
Extended generational life cycle
Cross-culturally capable (E-1 thru E-3)
Inherently entrepreneurial

A variety of analogiesbesides left and right feetcan help illustrate the distinction between these two structures. One simple way
to see it is to consider the contrast between settlers and pioneers.
Pioneers go somewhere. They explore new territory. They cross barriers in their efforts. Pioneers imagine what could be and are motivated by the new and unknown. This idea is captured in the famous
introductory lines to every episode of Star Trek:
Space: The final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship
Enterprise. Its five-year mission: To explore strange new worlds;
to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no
man has gone before.
Settlers, on the other hand, are those who conserve the fruit of
exploration. They establish. They put down roots and build. They
ensure that what has been accomplished is preserved for themselves and for future generations.
The values and mindsets of pioneers and settlers are quite different. Inevitably, they hold different values that can conflict. As
George Lings says, To the adventurous the word settler is as attractive as mud. To the systems person, pioneers are a nightmare.4
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Each function calls for different abilities and different skill sets.
Each calls for a different structure in which such abilities and skill
sets can be effectively lived out. But both are valid. Both are important. Both are necessary.
The two structures distinction can be seen in an array of other
areas of life. There is a difference between a classic entrepreneur
who starts a business and the business manager who builds and
maintains it. There is a difference between a pioneering medical
researcher and a family doctor. There is a difference between a
soldier who serves in Special Forces and one who serves in the
regular army. Throughout most human endeavors there are distinctions between specialists and generalists and social structures that
uniquely accommodate both. It is no different for the churchthe
universal earthly expression of those people committed to Jesus.
I wish there were a better vocabulary for explaining the distinction
between sodality and modality. Others have tried various terms, but
they really havent stuck: sent church versus gathered church; pioneers versus settlers; specialists versus generalists, etc. But in our
era and for those immersed in the missional task of the Christian
movement, Winter brought clarity to these foundational concepts.
George Lings writes:
I resisted the language for years, because I did not understand
it and found it opaque. The words conveyed almost nothing to
me, except my sense of incomprehension. Having been enlightened, they are now a central part of my understanding of
mission and church and I deeply regret that the terms are not
more accessible. I have thought for some years about how they
could be improved, and am open to offers, but all alternatives
put so far by others seem only partial or even a step back.5
Ralph Winters Two Structures article is primarily an argument
from history. He does not devote much time to an exegetical or
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biblical justification for the distinction between these two Godordained structures. He does little to extract the paradigmand particularly the legitimacy of the apostolic structurefrom Scripture.
I think that is understandable, because to the Jewish mind of
both the Old Testament and the early stages of the Christian era,
such structures would have been givens. There would be little need
to justify their existence. But that is no longer the case in our day,
and it is particularly not the prevailing worldview within Protestantism. So can we show some biblical justification for this missiological paradigm? Can I satisfactorily answer the question my
pastor friend asked in the conversation at the beginning of this
chapter? The answer is an unequivocal yes.
THE OLD TESTAMENT EVIDENCE
While the New Testament provides more fertile ground for understanding these concepts, there are examples of functional equivalents of apostolic, missionary structures woven throughout the Old
Testament and the intertestamental period. Granted, they may be
more implicit than explicit, but they are not obscure.
An early example in the Old Testament of individuals operating
outside the religious establishment is the Nazirites. These were men
or women who voluntarily took vows as an indication of being separated or consecrated as holy to God (Numbers 6:8). In the Halakha
(the Jewish law) there is a rich tradition regarding Nazirites, and
there are sixteen uses of the Hebrew word nazir in the Hebrew Bible.
There were actually grades or levels of Nazirites and some variation
in what it meant to be a Nazirite in different times. We find examples of Nazirite vows in Judges 13:5 (Samson) and 1 Samuel 1:11
(Samuel). They are also mentioned in Amos 2:11-12.
Nazirites appear in the writings of Josephus and the rabbi Gamaliel, and are referred to in 1 Maccabees 3:49. In modern Hebrew,
the word nazir is used for monkswhether Christian, Buddhist or
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other non-Jewish religious expressionsas those who have been


set aside for specific, holy purposes. Luke 1:13-15 suggests that John
the Baptist was designated a Nazirite from birth.
Another example of a structure that accommodated such setaside people in the Old Testament is the schools or bands of
prophets started by the prophet Samuel and described in 1 Samuel
19:19-20. While prophets walked an unpopular road, the structure
for living out their prophetic calling and apprenticing other
prophets flourished in the days of Samuel, Elijah and Elisha, and
throughout the Old Testament.
These schools were bands of men who lived together for instruction, worship, training and service (1 Samuel 10:2-11; 19:19-20;
1 Kings 18:4; 22:6; 2 Kings 2:3-5; 4:38; 6:1). Some commentators actually refer to these as prophetic orders, and their influence was felt
from the time of Samuel through the Babylonian exile. There is reference to these bands living in Ramah, Bethel, Gilgal, Jericho, Carmel
and Samaria, where it is inferred they resided in their own buildings
with their own clear sense of community and mission. There was
study, worship and tasks for others and for God, all overseen by defined leadership (Samuel, Elijah and Elisha, for example). They were
largely dependent on the charity of the Hebrew people for support.6
During the intertestamental period, the Essenes (ca. 150 BCAD 68)
were another example of a Jewish sodality structure. They practiced
communal life, asceticism, voluntary poverty and abstinence from
worldly pleasures, and they were committed to piety and expressions
of charity and benevolence. They are best known to us today as those
who producedor at least preservedthe Dead Sea Scrolls. John the
Baptist was probably influenced by the Essenes and their values, as
they lived near the sites along the Jordan River where John offered
baptism for repentance.
This pattern of Jewish structures continued during the inter
testamental period and into the first century AD. Johannes Blauw,
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in The Missionary Nature of the Church, has a brief but fascinating


chapter on missionary activity among the Jewsthe proselytizing
movement in which bands of committed Jews travelled throughout
the Roman Empire to find converts.7 Winter also refers to them:
Very few Christians, casually reading the New Testament (and
with only the New Testament available to them), would
surmise the degree to which there had been Jewish evangelists
who went before Paul all over the Empirea movement that
began 100 years before Christ. Some of these were the people
whom Jesus himself described as traversing land and sea to
make a single proselyte. Saul followed their path; later, as Paul
he built on their efforts and went beyond them with the new
gospel he preached.8
These Jewish structures were called khevra, which is a Hebrew word
for a voluntary association or actual mission structures. By New
Testament times this included Pharisees, Essenes and Sadducees.
F. F. Bruce called them brotherhoods and Alfred Edersheim says
that the Pharisees were an order, and a fraternity.9 Robert Blinco
provides an extensive discussion of the Jewish background of these
structures and is a superb source of additional documentation about
the relationship between synagogues and the Jewish khevrot.10
All of these movementsNazirites, the schools or bands of
prophets, the Essenes and Jewish proselytizersembody characteristics that we see later expressed, to one degree or another, not
just in the missionary impetus of the early apostolic bands in the
book of Acts, but also in the monastic missionary movements of
early Christianity.
THE NEW TESTAMENT EVIDENCE
One could make a case that Jesus and his traveling band of disciples
were another example of such a structure. His method of ministry and
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apprenticing others was a common religious form outside of the religious establishment and the temple/synagogue tradition. However,
the most overt evidence of apostolic structures in the New Testament
is found in the book of Acts and throughout the subsequent writings
of Paul the apostle and others who were part of his missionary bands.
The first record of such post-Pentecost ministry is Acts 13:
The Holy Spirit said, Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for
the work to which I have called them. So after they had fasted
and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them
off. (Acts 13:2-3)
And its not just Barnabas and Saul who are part of this effort. The
mention of John Mark in verse 5 and Pauls companions in verse
13 implies there were other participants.
So what is really going on here? Is this an example of the church
in its local form sending people into ministry that will cross cultural and geographical barriers? And what is the real relationship
between the church in Antioch and this newly formed missionary
band? Is this really an example of Paul and Barnabas in some sense
being authoritatively commissioned by the Antioch church? Two
things need to be said that shed important light on the legitimacy
of such apostolic, missionary structures and their relationship with
the local church body from this passage.
Paul and his band were released, not sent. Lets get the exegesis right. First, the operative agent here is the Holy Spirit, not the
local church or any other human entity. Second, what those around
Paul and Barnabas did was recognize the Spirits activity and sovereign choice, and they responded by releasing Paul and Barnabas.
As C. Peter Wagner writes in his commentary on the book of Acts,
Some scholars point out an interesting use of two Greek words
for to send in this passage. Obviously, the chief sending agent
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was the Holy Spirit, and the Greek verb in the sentence So,
being sent out by the Holy Spirit is pempo, which is usually a
more proactive kind of sending or dispatching. The send in
they sent them away is from the Greek word apoluo, which
frequently means releasing something that has its own inherent source of energy. Thus it could be said that they released them. Certainly here we have a combination of the two
kinds of sending and spiritual power for missionary activity
coming ultimately from the Holy Spirit.11
There is no exegetical evidence to support the oft-cited perspective that the Antioch church somehow exercised authority in
sending Paul and Barnabas. Of the sixty times the verb apolu is
used in the New Testament, only once (in Acts 15:30and its unclear in that passage) is the concept anywhere near a sending
function with any sense of authority on the part of the sender. Thats
just not the way the word is used, and to imply differently is to read
into the text something that is simply not there.12 Paul and Barnabas
were, rather, released from their local responsibilities and allowed
to return to the kind of work that had brought them to Antioch in
the first place.13
There is no New Testament text that describes a local congregation as sending or commissioning people for long-term pioneer missionary service to plant churches where there were none.
This does not mean that it is contrary to Scripture for a church to
do so today; it only means that there is no biblical text that directly
supports the use of that terminology.14 As Robert Blincoe writes,
Appealing to Acts 13:1-3 to secure a biblical basis for todays church
assessment and funding and oversight of missionaries seems to be
treading on thin ice.
There are no examples anywhere in Scripture of local church
governance of the missionary undertaking. One passage that could
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be citedand its a stretchis Galatians 2:11-14, and that particular


example is negative. Its not a precedent I would cite if I were a local
church that believes in tighter control of apostolic, sent people.15
Those who did the releasing may not actually have been the
local church leaders. An interesting argument could be made that
those who laid their hands on Paul and Barnabas were actually
other apostolic leadersnot unlike Paul and Barnabaswho were
releasing some of their own for a new assignment. We need to consider the possibility that none of these were from Antioch or residents there long-term. And in an environment where the local
church consisted of multiple house churches, none of these were
pastors or elders of these groups. Acts 13:1 implies that prophets
and teachers were not also called elders. Its possible that these
prophets and teachers were what we often find when people move
crossculturally and minister alongside burgeoning or existing
church expressions, that is, missionaries.
So its quite possible that three of Pauls team areby the process
of the laying-on of handssetting aside two of their own to be sent.
As Peter Wagner writes:
Who laid on hands? As far as the text is concerned, the other
three would have laid hands on Barnabas and Saul. Whether
any others from either the sodality or the modality would
have been invited to participate is a matter of conjecture.
Most students of Acts think the church in general would have
played some role. In all probability it did, but it should be seen
as a secondary, not a primary, role.16
Elsewhere, Wagner explains,
Keep in mind that Barnabas and Paul did not first become
missionaries at this point. They were already missionaries,
simply being reassigned. The process of hearing from God
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and reassigning the missionaries accordingly took place


within what missiologists call the sodality, or the CCM
[Cyprus and Cyrene Mission] mission agency, not the modality, or the Antioch church as such. . . . It is not an attempt
to demote the local church, but only to point out that . . . when
it comes to particulars of mission strategy . . . God more often
speaks to apostolic teams than to home congregations.17
I realize that Wagners view is speculative, but there is nothing in
the text that would prevent it. Regardless, the belief that Acts 13
somehow demonstrates that local congregations should have authority over the sending and ongoing governance of missionary
teams is simply unsupportable by the text. As Craig Van Gelder
notes, once Barnabas and Paul were sent out by the Antioch church,
they were basically on their own. They were neither under the
control of Antioch in decision making, nor were they dependent
upon Antioch for financial support.18
So from Acts 13 through Pauls three missionary journeys, we see
the powerful utility and effectiveness of these apostolic bands. They
were flexible and never static. They were mobile. They were task oriented. People came and went, such as Luke, Titus, Timothy and John
Mark. There was communication between the teams. At least thirty
or more individuals are specifically named at one point or another in
the New Testament as participants in this Cyprus and Cyrene Mission.
ABERRATIONS OR EQUALS?
There are significant implications if in fact Wagner and the missiological commentators who agree with him are correct in their
understanding of these passages and the subsequent ministry activity of Paul and his missionary band(s). This speaks directly to the
relationship between the church in its missionary form and the
church in its local form.
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First, these apostolic bands were not aberrations. As Charles


Mellis states:
Another interesting feature is that these teams are never described in a didactic way. Yet the abundant evidence of their
activity shows how thoroughly they were accepted as a valid
and vital structure of the church, the Body of Christ. But is it
really so strange that Paul, who was responsible for so much of
the New Testaments formal teaching, would not describe the
missionary band? After all, he was demonstrating its function
at every step. And he also demonstrated his relationship to the
local nurturing fellowships that he and his teams plantedby
the way he wrote to these congregations in certain cities.19
The absence of an explicit description of these apostolic bands as
church in the post-Gospel writings does not preclude the description from being legitimately applied to Paul and his apostolic
band(s). It is not only the church local that is church. There is
simply no textual reason to prohibit all of the same biblical and essential descriptors of church that are applied to geographically
local, congregational entities from being equally applied to mobile,
apostolic structures.
Second, the primary structure used in the New Testament for
missionary effortsmeaning the crossing of cultural, linguistic or
geographical barriers for the sake of missionis not the church in
its local form. Rather, it is the church in its missionary form, full of
apostolic people. That form is not by accident or default, but by the
design and providence of God. As Wagner says:
The predominant structure for the extension of the Kingdom
of God into new mission frontiers has been the sodality, not
the modality. Each has its essential place in the Kingdom, but
for cross cultural missions God seems to have favored the
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sodality. This is why I believe it is important to understand


that in Antioch the Holy Spirit evidently spoke to the sodality
(the CCM) instead of the modality (the Antioch church) to
separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I
have called them (13:2). That is the reason why I think it is
inaccurate to say, as many do, that Paul and Barnabas were
sent out by the church at Antioch.20
CONTROL AND ACCOUNTABILITY
Implicit in this conversation is the question of control and accountability. I sometimes hear pastors and denominational
leaders say that theyand their local church or denominational
structureshould be the ones in control of apostolic leaders and
their ministry efforts. But that is a difficult position to justify
from Scripture.
First, there is no evidence that Antioch, or any other local congregation, played a controlling role in the function and decisions
of Paul and his apostolic teams. None. In fact, the opposite was
more often the case. When Paul recruited personnel, he didnt
submit their resumes to the local churches or seek their approval.
He may have sought their advice (as with Timothy in Acts 16:2),
but there is no evidence of control. When Paul made strategic
decisions, such as launching off into Macedonia or going to
Rome, he got his marching orders directly from the Holy Spirit.
While he did report his activity to local churches (Acts 14:26-28)
and send regular letters and messengers (which were the social
media of the times), there is no evidence that his efforts or the
efforts of his missionary bands were under the authority or
control of local congregations. In fact, the reverse is actually
more accurate. Most of the post-Gospel New Testament writings
are actually letters from apostolic people operating in apostolic
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structures to local church people on how to live, minister and


function. Mellis writes:
There is no evidence that the life of the missionary band was
rooted in or controlled by this church. Nor is there any hint
of a financially supportive relationship. On the contrary, the
evidence points to the fact that the bands had a life of their
own, and threw off shoots which became the planted communities of believers. Green (following Harnack) calls attention to this distinction as it carried over into the second
century. . . . He speaks of a division of peripatetic Christian
leaders which was extremely ancient, and probably modeled
on Jewish precedent; they stand out in sharp contrast to the
settled ministry of bishops, presbyters and deacons. . . . Both
types of ministry are found side by side in the Didache and
Hermas. . . . The roving ministry was . . . not elected by the
churches, like the settled ministry. We have here a clearly
autonomous structure.21
Theologian Arthur Glasser sums it up well:
There is no indication that the apostolic missionary team
was either directed by or accountable to the Christians in
Antioch. . . . We state this without qualification, even though
upon returning from their first journey, Paul and Barnabas
gathered the church together and declared all that God had
done with them.22
Autonomy does not mean a lack of collegiality or reciprocity. As we
will see in coming chapters, movements actually occur and are sustained when there is a healthy sense of interdependence between
local and apostolic expressions of the church.
However, a fair question about this noncontrolling relationship
can be raised regarding Pauls relationship with the Jerusalem
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council. Perhaps there was no control exercised by local congregations, but what about the higher authority of this body? I agree with
Charles Mellis when he writes,
The scriptural material is extremely skimpy regarding the connection between the missionary bands and any originating
or sending fellowships. Wed be on shaky ground to place
the Jerusalem church in such a category. Their principle
linkage with the missionary bands seems to be an endless
asking of nit-picking doctrinal questions (Acts 11:2-3; 15:1, 5;
etc.). The tendency became so strong that it once caused Peter
to sacrifice his principles (Galatians 2:12, 13). (I imagine that
every mission leader reading this will get an immediate
mental picture of one or more constituency churches that he
feels threatened by!) This trend continued to the point where
James and the elders had to warn Paul, when he arrived in
Jerusalem for his last visit, about the thousands of Jewish believers there, all zealous for the law, who had believed some
distorted rumors about his attitude toward the law. . . . The
growingly inbred, law-fencing Jerusalem church is hardly a
model of a mission-minded church possessing a universal
message for all mankind.23
ENCOUNTER IN EASTERN EUROPE
Shortly after the fall of communism, I was sitting with a few of our
CRM staff members in a restaurant in Budapest, Hungary. While we
had engaged in itinerant, covert ministry throughout the Eastern
Bloc during the bleak years before communism crumbled, we had
some visionary pioneers in Hungary who were living and working
under the radar during the difficult days of totalitarianism.
I was enjoying my coffee and the conversation when a woman approached me and introduced herself. She was another expatriate. In
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those days, being recognized in that part of the world was not something to be desired. However, she somehow recognized memaybe
because of the company I was keepingand just wanted to say thank
you for a recent article I had written in the Evangelical Missions
Quarterly. The article, When Local Churches Act Like Agencies, described in practical detail what happens when local churches assume
they are capable of major apostolic ministry on their own.24
It turned out that this woman and her family were serving with
another missions organization in Eastern Europe. She wanted me
to know that the article had strongly resonated with her and her
husband. It put into words what they and many other missionaries
knew and felt but were hesitant to say, for fear of offending pastors
and supporting churches in the United Statesin particular, for
fear of offending the people in those churches who controlled the
purse strings. But for her, the article was liberating. It legitimized
what they knew to be true about their calling. It gave them validation. They were not an aberration.
A fully orbed, biblical ecclesiology understands that the church
can be expressed in two legitimate, autonomous but interdependent
structural expressions, both necessary for the health and vitality of
the overall Christian movement. Both the left foot and the right
foot are absolutely needed. And these two structuresthe church
local and the church sent, the parish structure and the missionary
structurecan be found functionally throughout the Old and New
Testaments, and can be clearly justified from the pages of Scripture.
But in addition to Scripture, there is the overwhelming testimony
of the past two thousand years of history, to which we now turn.

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